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Text & Image: Erase & Overprint

October 21, 2009

The cover of this 2001 issue of Adbusters, designed by Mike Simons, under guest art director Jonathan Barnbrook. the design features a cosmetics advert obscured by the scrawl of a black marker, with the masthead and issue title confined to the periphery of the image. Adbusters can often be a bit 6th-form agit-prop, and I’m not a huge fan of Barnbrook’s work, but this cover succeeds in subverting the format (even for a subversive publication like Adbusters), while still delivering a striking image. The barcode placed over the scrawl is presumably necessary, but also a nice touch.

Recognise these? Published receipts from the recent MPs expenses scandal, in their newspaper-ready censored format. It’s symptomatic of Broken Britain, I tell you…

…and here’s the same trick, this time used for dramatic effect in Joseph Weisberg’s novel An Ordinary Spy. The novel hasn’t really been censored, but portions of blank text are included by the author as a plot device, and to make the book resemble a real CIA memoir.

Next, two posters by Daniel Eatock, from exhibitions at…

Atelier Cardenas Bellanger

…and Galerie de Multiples

Artist Jérôme Saint-Loubert Bié invited 13 other designers to produce two images each, to advertise his exhibitions at Atelier Cardenas Bellanger and Galerie de Multiples in Paris in 2007. In a cunning (and some might say work-shy) twist, the images would also compose the sole content of the exhibition.
Daniel Eatock chose to mimic Jerome’s brief, and rather than produce an image himself, he appropriated the images produced by the 12 other designers, overprinting them one on top of the other to create his own designs. So while Eatock’s first poster is composed of the original 12 designs, the second is his own poster from the first show, overprinted with the 12 new designs for the next exhibition. That’s an accumulation of 24 layers, most of those individually containing 2 or 3 layers of colour. I haven’t seen a copy of the original poster, but I bet it’s thick!
Bié’s opinion of Eatock’s contribution was that it raised the stakes of this experiment – it is the contribution that is the closest to something I would have done myself.” Job well done then.

Dan Walsh’s Garfield Minus Garfield removes the eponymous feline from the original cartoons, leaving long-suffering minder Jon Arbuckle alone to stew in his own neurosis. The results are certainly much sadder, and in some cases funnier than the originals.
Originally created to be shared between a few mates in Dublin, the site’s popularity snowballed, and for a short time received up to 300,000 hits a day from as far afield as the US. Commentary followed in both the New York Times and the Washington Post. Word soon got back to Garfield creator (and copyright-holder) Jim Davis… and happily, he loved it!

Final example, a classic – here’s a video of Robert Rauchenberg and some other talking heads, on his Erased de Kooning Drawing (1953).

It strikes me that there are so many places to take this research (graffiti would be a good one to look at), and I can think of several other artists who use erasure as a central theme or technique – Paul Pheiffer, Idris Khan, and Gary Simmons – but this post is getting a little long and art-heavy as it is. So finally, there’s some very interesting further discussion in a series of posts on Stoffel Debuysere’s Diagonal Thoughts blog, including some stuff on Garfield.
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